Assessing Potential Impact of Bt Eggplants on Non-Target Arthropods in the Philippines

Researchers from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, and Cornell University report on studies conducted in the Philippines over three cropping seasons with Bt eggplants expressing Cry1Ac for control of the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB), Leucinodes orbonalis, to examine potential effects on field abundance, community composition, structure and biodiversity of non target organisms, particularly non-target arthropod (NTA) communities. Read more

Challenges in commercializing biotech crops tackled in seminar

Challenges in commercializing biotech crops tackled in seminar

Socio-economic considerations, multiple agency review, labeling, and legal court challenges are the major obstacles in getting biotech crops to farmers, according to Senior Legal Consultant of the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) Atty. Gregory Jaffe, who presented in the Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) on July 24, 2017 in his talk titled “GM Crops to Farmers: Curves in the Roads.” An example cited was the court case filed against Bt eggplant in the Philippines which is more of a procedural issue than a technical one. According to Atty. Jaffe, the key is transparent and predictable biosafety regulatory procedures that anticipate and address the said issues before a product is approved for release.

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Pangasinan stakeholders learn about Bt brinjal, affirm support for Bt talong

Pangasinan stakeholders learn about Bt brinjal, affirm support for Bt talong

Farmers, local government constituents, and other key stakeholders in the province of Pangasinan, Philippines expressed their backing for, and willingness to adopt Bt talong(eggplant) by signing a declaration of support for its commercialization during a seminar with key people involved in the development and commercialization of Bangladesh’s Bt brinjal last July 27, 2017 at Pangasinan State University (PSU)-Sta. Maria Campus.

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Awards, new ties mark DOST-PCAARRD’s 6th anniversary

The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) week-long celebration of its sixth founding anniversary last month puts the spotlight on several activities, including the national Symposium on Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (NSAARRD).

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Science for the people

Science is truly an exciting field albeit a complex one to many. While we recognize the fruits and innovations that science has brought to us throughout millennia, many are still far from appreciating it. Some even fear it in the modern world. But science has no sense of resentment, and only seeks to alleviate man’s basic longing: necessity.

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Biotechnology a key to food security

BIOTECHNOLOGY can be the key to the country’s food security and development issues.

Gil Saguiguit, director of Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) said that this scientific technology gives farmers a fighting chance to cope with the many challenges and obstacles they face in farming.

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#InspireCourage: UP grad from Marawi dreams of building PH biotech industry

‘You have to have many scientists – Filipino scientists – who are passionate about the country and those who do not forget their country,’ says Arman Ali Ghodsinia

MANILA, Philippines – Fresh from his much-applauded valedictory speech at the graduation ceremony of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Arman Ali Ghodsinia shared what he intends to do after college and his big dreams for the country.

Ghodsinia, a Maranao from Marawi who just graduated summa cum laude in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the UP College of Science, said he wants to help build the biotechnology industry in the Philippines.

“I believe (that) in the future, there will be a biotechnology industry here in the Philippines. And I have a lot of brilliant batchmates who I see will contribute well to the science in the Philippines. And together, we will be able to raise the science in the Philippines to the extent that people from other countries will come here to study science,” Ghodsinia said on Rappler Talk on Thursday, June 29.

Such industry does not exist yet in the country, though there are brilliant scientists and students studying the field, Ghodsinia said, citing a UP professor teaching biotechnology enterprises.

Biotechnology, according to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, is “any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use.”

In the Philippines, the field of biotechnology should benefit the agriculture sector, Ghodsinia said, noting that the country hosts world-renowned research centers like the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC).

“If we are to focus on something, I’d say that could be one of our priorities – improving our agriculture, because it’s one of our strong points,” the young scientist said.

Giving back to Marawi

The fresh graduate, who got a general weighted average of 1.173, worked on a thesis that tackled “genetic aberrations” that cause cancer and how these affect health outcomes like a patient’s reaction to medicines.

Ghodsinia plans to pursue graduate studies abroad but vowed to return to the country and open his own laboratory.

“And (through) this laboratory, I want to open opportunities for my kababayans (townmates) from Mindanao, from Marawi, and people who come from poor backgrounds to learn stuff in molecular biology as well. In doing so, together, we are able to raise (the level) of science in the Philippines,” he said.

He encouraged other Filipino scientists to do the same and help further develop science and technology in the country.

“You have to have many scientists – Filipino scientists – who are passionate about the country, and those who do not forget their country and are willing to sacrifice amidst all the opportunities abroad,” Ghodsinia said in a mix of Filipino and English.

Ghodsinia called on the government to provide more funds for science education in the country. “This means that you have to have more students who are interested in science,” he said.

‘Children of Mindanao’

In the meantime, Ghodsinia is supporting his sister Farah’s initiative, “Children of Mindanao,” which helps Muslim children access good education.

“We want to raise the awareness that there are certain groups in the Philippines, not only the Maranaos, who are being left behind. We, as scholars of the nation, or anyone in the Philippines, should also look [after] them,” he said.

Ghodsinia’s viral valedictory speech called for peace and compassion as fighting rages in his hometown. (READ: Maranao UP graduate: ‘Magmalasakit sa mga naaapi’)

“Here I am standing in front of you today, as proof that members of minorities like us Maranaos can also do well; and contribute effectively to societal growth if given the same opportunities and rights like many other Filipinos,” he said in his speech.

Ghodsinia’s sister, who also graduated with honors in UP Diliman before taking up law in the same university, is pushing for inclusive education and development in the country.

“It’s difficult to have that if the war consistently persists. You see these individuals actually crying and suffering – they don’t deserve it,” Farah said on Rappler Talk.

According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), more than 83,500 families or 385,000 people from Marawi City have so far been displaced by the month-long clashes between government troops and local terrorists.

-Written by Voilaire Published by  See original article link here.

Are Biotech crops safe to eat?


ARE biotech crops, which are spliced with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), safe to eat?

Opponents, mostly composed of private individuals, non-governmental organizations and international activists, say they are not. Proponents—who are mostly scientists (including Nobel Prize winners), health officials and United Nations agencies—claim they are!

Now, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (Isaaa) just released its newest report, “Global Status of Commercialized/Biotech GM Crops: 2016”. The Isaaa brief is considered one of the most-cited references in the field of modern agri-biotechnology due to its credibility and accuracy.

“Biotech crops have now had an unblemished record of safe use and consumption for over 20 years,” the report pointed out.  “Future generations can benefit more from wide choices of biotech crops with improved traits for high yield and nutrition, as well as safe for food use and environment.”

Biotech crops are products of biotechnology, defined as “any technique that uses living organisms to make or modify a product, to improve plants or animals or to develop microorganisms for specific uses”.

The methodology seems like a work of fiction.  Listen to the words of Dr. Frank A. Shotkoski, an adjunct professor at the Cornell University in the College of Life Science Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics: “Traditional methods of crop improvement require the mixing of genes by making specific crosses, observing and selecting for specific phenotypes [traits] in the offspring.  This has been a very effective tool for crop improvement, and our ancestors have been quite successful in using these techniques to develop the productive, tasty and nutritious crops that we have today.”

But modern biotechnology completely changes that.  “Biotechnology allows us to introduce genes into crops that could never be achieved using traditional/conventional methods, because the gene tied to a specific trait (i.e., insect resistance, disease resistance, herbicide tolerance, etc.) doesn’t exist in species,” Shotkoski explained.  “Often, traits of interest can be introgressed into a crop much faster using biotechnology tools, such as marker-assisted breeding, gene transformation and/or gene editing.”

In recent years, modern biotechnology—through genetic engineering—has been used to increase plant and animal food production, to diagnose disease, improve medical treatment, produce vaccines and other useful drugs and to help dispose of industrial wastes.

Against hunger

“There is a lot that happens around the world we cannot control,” American Congressman Jan Schakowsky once said. “We cannot stop earthquakes, we cannot prevent droughts and we cannot prevent all conflict, but when we know where the hungry, the homeless and the sick exist, then we can help.”

Hunger is the physical sensation of desiring food. When politicians, relief workers and social scientists talk about people suffering from hunger, they usually refer to those who are unable to eat sufficient food to meet their basic nutritional needs for sustained periods of time.

But with the continuous number of people added annually to the current population, it is more likely that hunger will be a rule rather an exception.  “Population growth is going crazy,” Shotkoski pointed out.  “From 2 billion in 1935, it doubled to 4 billion in 1975.  By 2000 the world was home to 6 billion.  In 2030 there will be about 8 billion people inhabiting this planet.”

In addition, there are the issues of climate change: rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns.  “Climate change is a major challenge for agriculture and food security,” said Dr. Randy Hautea, Isaaa global coordinator.

Biotechnology is seen as a probable solution. “I see biotechnology as an important component of the many technologies and choices that we have available to provide food security, human nutrition and health for an ever-expanding population,” Shotkoski said.  “This is especially important for agriculture, where farmers are faced with many biotic and abiotic constraints, most of which can’t be dealt with using conventional technologies.”

In 1994 Calgene’s delayed-ripening tomato became the first GM food crop to be produced and consumed in an industrialized country.  In 1995 GM cotton and GM corn were subsequently commercialized.  Soon to be introduced in the country are the following: the GM eggplant and the vitamin A-rich golden rice.

A consumer advocacy group in UK reported that GM soya can be found in bread, biscuits, baby milk, baby foods, breakfast cereals, margarine, soups, pasta, pizza instant meals, meat products, flours, sweets, ice creams, crisps, chocolate, soy sauce, veggie-burgers, tofu, soya milk and pet foods.

In the Philippines, Filipinos may be eating GM foods, such as potato chips, corn cereals, or soya milk.  Love it or loathe it, transgenic food is set to become a bigger part of what people eat.

Health concerns

But Greenpeace, an anti-biotech organization, continues to take a preventive stance.  It cautioned that consumers can never be absolutely sure of the safety of biotech crops since this is only determined by decades of data and study.

Here are some concerns of those who opposed GM crops:

Allergies:  Dr. Romeo Quijano, of the Department of Pharmacology of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, said GM food is hazardous commodities because they carried new proteins that may cause allergy.

The National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH) and its team have this answer: “Contrary to common perception, it is natural foods, not additives and artificial flavors, which account for majority of food allergies like nuts, shrimps, crabs and others.  In fact, any food that contains proteins has the potential to cause allergic reactions depending on individual susceptibility.

“Furthermore, extensive food safety evaluation has been implemented to minimize the possibility that allergenic proteins are introduced into commercialized genetically modified crops.  There is no single commercialized genetically modified plant that is known to cause any significant risks of allergenicity.”

Cancer: People eating GM food are likely to be susceptible to cancer.  This was discovered in a study conducted by Dr. Arpad Pusztai of the Rowett Institute on genetically engineered potatoes on rats.  In his research, he fed rats on two strains of potatoes: one with genetically engineered with lectin from snowdrop bulbs and another with ordinary potatoes.

The result of his study: immune systems and brains, livers, kidneys and other vital organs of the rats fed with lectin-spiked potatoes were damaged while those fed with ordinary potatoes showed no damage at all.

“There is no evidence that the technologies used to produced-genetically modified foods are inherently harmful,” BIOTECH and other institutions concluded.  Referring on the study done by Dr. Pusztai, they said it was debunked by the Royal Society of London.  They found the Pusztai study as “flawed in experimental design, execution and analysis.”

Antibiotic resistance:   Quijano said a scientific data indicate that “the emergence of new diseases, the rapid evolution of virulence and the widespread occurrence of drug and antibiotic resistance are associated with the rise of genetic engineering.”

The BIOTECH team claims otherwise: “The possibility that antibiotic resistance genes built into genetically modified plants could be transferred to bacteria harmful to humans has been thoroughly studied.  To date, no reliable and stable transfer has been reported.  In fact, there are no known mechanisms for effective transfer of genes from plant to bacteria under natural conditions.

Besides, antibiotics are used only in the laboratory during development process of the biotech crops.  These, they claimed, do not produce antibiotics nor do they require application of antibiotics in the field.


Now, let’s take a closer look at those organizations which fully support the transgenic crops for human consumption.

“Foods produced using genetic modification is as safe as foods produced using conventional breeding techniques,” assures the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Genetically modified foods are as safe as other foods available on the market.”

The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) declared that different GM foods go through the global food safety process called Codex Alimentarius Risk Analysis of Foods Derived from Modern Biotechnology under which these foods are not found to be risky to human health.

“GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health,” said the UN health agency.  “No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved. Continuous use of risk assessments based on the Codex principles and, where appropriate, including post market monitoring, should form the basis for evaluating the safety of GM foods.”

Last year, the premier American Medical Association issued this statement: “Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years and during that time; no overt consequences to human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.”

The Royal Society of Medicine, an independent educational organization for doctors, dentists, scientists and others involved in medicine and health care in England, said: “Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world with no ill effects (or legal cases related to human health) despite many of the consumers coming from the most litigious of countries, the United States.”

Here’s the findings of the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union: “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology and in particular GMOs are no more risky than conventional plant-breeding technologies.”

Safer than street foods

Meanwhile, Officer-in-charge Vivencio R. Mamaril of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) claims those foods that contain GMOs are safer to eat than those being sold in the streets.

The reason: transgenic crops undergo stricter tests and environmental assessments and could be much safer and more nutritious than street food consumed daily everywhere.  Unlike street food items that are not regulated, GM crops have been subjected to extensive testing under a bio safety framework regarded as one of the strictest in the world.

This made him wonder why those anti-GM campaigners have been blasting away at GM crops but keeping silent on the safety concerns for street food.  It may be because, he surmised, street food items are so common that no one bothers to ask if they are safe and nutritious for hundreds of thousands of pupils and students who consume them daily in spite of threats of microbial contamination.

“We may not all be so assiduous in guarding our rights in this situation, but what about on the food we eat? Are we always concerned with the safety of the food we consume? Is food quality in terms of safety our parameter in choosing what we eat? Do we read labels or are we more concerned with the price of the product we buy?  These are the many questions that most consumer behavior researchers undertake,” asked Dr. Mamaril, who is also the director of the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Biotechnology Program.

“Take for example, why are there so many street foods being sold in front of schools and many other busy places? Is the selling of street foods regulated to guard the safety of consumers? The answer maybe is no. And why is this so? It could be because the types of food sold are those known to be commonly consumed. Examples are animals’ innards that are processed as fried, smoked or are skewered, eggs wrapped in flour, fish balls, chicken balls, squid balls, taho, and many others.  The food quality concern in these kinds of foods could be microbial,” he said.

Now on the other side of the coin.  As for GM products, food safety is a real concern.  “Under our existing rules and regulations on GM crops, food safety is one the major concerns before such crops are given a biosafety permit. Other biosafety concerns are animal feeds and environmental safety,” Mamaril pointed out.

If you are given a choice, will you eat GM food or not?  One sage puts his answer this way: “A man who has enough food has several problems. A man without food has only one problem.” Or as Horace puts it: “Only a stomach that rarely feels hungry scorns common things.”

-Written by Henrylito D. Tacio in BusinessMirror.  See original article link here.

Image Credits: Henrylito D. Tacio

Coexistence of agri technologies pushed

MANILA, Philippines – The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) reiterated the increasing importance of safe, and evidence- and science-based agricultural technologies in promoting agricultural productivity and food and nutrition security amid climate change and dwindling production resources.

Among these technologies is biotechnology, including both traditional (such as selective breeding and fermentation techniques) and modern (genetic engineering) techniques, which SEARCA looks at as an important tool in addressing the abovementioned challenges.

SEARCA is strongly pushing for “coexistence,” which, according to a report by the US Department of Agriculture Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, “is the concurrent cultivation of conventional, organic, identity preserved and genetically engineered crops consistent with underlying consumer preferences and farmer choices.”

Gil Saguiguit, director of SEARCA, made this statement following the Philippine launch of the annual report of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) on the global status of commercialized biotech crops.

According to the ISAAA report, global planting of biotech crops reached 185.1 million hectares in 2016, up from 179.7 million hectares the previous year.

A total of 26 countries grew biotech crops, including the Philippines, which planted around 812,000 hectares of biotech yellow corn last year.

Biotech corn varieties, which are grown in the country since 2003, are pest resistant and herbicide tolerant, thus providing various documented benefits to Filipino farmers including significant increase in yield and reduction in production costs.

Saguiguit said that through SEARCA’s 10th five-year plan focused on Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development (ISARD), the center believes that due attention must be given to resource poor farmers by providing them access to information, best practices, and new technologies that will increase their farm productivity.

Our goal is to give our farmers a fighting chance to cope with the many challenges and obstacles they face in farming. Through biotechnology and many other innovations, we hope to offer them better opportunities so that they can provide not only for their families but also contribute to the nation’s food security and overall development.

Along these lines, SEARCA qualifies that it only promotes agricultural technologies and practices that are known to be safe and do not compromise human and environmental health.

With the continuing opposition to biotechnology, Saguiguit said it is all the more important for the public, particularly decision and policymakers, to understand the said technology in the context of scientific and empirical evidence.

-Published in The Philippine STAR.  See original article link here.

Biotech law needed to support BT eggplant, gene-silenced potato

An academic think tank said a stronger policy is needed to authorize planting and release of biotechnology crops like the Bt eggplant and “gene-silenced” non-browning potato, which could be the key to long term food security amid climate threats and the Philippines’ growing population.

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) said it supports the passage of a biotechnology law, which is more forcible than a memorandum circular or administrative order (AO).

“SEARCA has BIC (Biotechnology Information Center) which is its one-stop shop for biotechnology advocacy. We are in a position to support it (biotechnology law). We will capitalize on SEARCA’s strength in policy research to address the problem,” said SEARCA Director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. in a biotechnology forum.

Saguiguit cited SEARCA’s crucial role in policies that affect food production and the environment.

SEARCA, together with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA), hosts BIC at its headquarters in Los Banos, Laguna.

It supports BIC as part of the South East Asian Ministers of Education Organization’s focus to strengthen graduate agriculture education and related agricultural research carried out by academic experts.

-Published in FoodEvolution.  See original article link here.

From Frankenfood to Light of Hope:17 Years of Agri-biotech Reporting in the Philippines (2000-2016)

From Frankenfood to Light of Hope:17 Years of Agri-biotech Reporting in the Philippines (2000-2016)

This publication features the 17-year (2000-2016) study conducted by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center (BIC).  The study was conducted to see the trends in media reporting in print and online on agricultural biotechnology. 

PUBLISHED BY: The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA)

CITATION: Tome, Kristine Grace N., Mariechel J. Navarro, Sophia M. Mercado, and Maria Monina Cecilia
A. Villena. Seventeen Years of Media Reportage of Biotechnology in the Philippines. Philippine
Journal of Crop Science xx(xx): xx-xx.


Download PDF copy (1MB)The first 10 years (2000–2009) was initially published in 2011 covering the development and commercialization of biotech corn in the country as reported in print by the top three national dailies, Manila Bulletin, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Philippine Star.

The following seven years (2010–2016) was published in 2017, covering the recent happenings in the Philippine biotechnology arena such as the research and development of biotech food crops, Bt eggplant (pest resistant eggplant) and Golden Rice (Vitamin A-enriched rice). Aside from the top three newspapers, articles published by Business Mirror were also included in the study because of its significant increase in the number of articles on agricultural biotechnology. Online articles from the four newspapers were also included in the study to get more holistic understanding of biotechnology discussion in the country. The articles were classified and analyzed according to type, topic, tone, focus, sources, media frames, and use of metaphors.

Download PDF copy

Philippines leads Southeast Asia in GM corn production

Philippines leads Southeast Asia in GM corn production

On May 19, 2017, media practitioners, farmers, and government agency officers were briefed during a media conference on ISAAA’s latest report, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016 at the Acacia Hotel, Alabang, Muntinlupa City, Philippines.

The 2016 report states that Philippine biotech corn adoption increased to 812,000 hectares in 2016, a remarkable 16% increase (110,000 hectares) from the 702,000 hectares planted in 2015. The increase is due to favorable weather conditions, and high local demand for livestock and feed stocks. Biotech/GM corn, which was approved for commercial planting in 2002 is the only biotech crop planted in the country. The other two countries in Southeast Asia that planted biotech crops in 2016 are Myanmar and Vietnam.

ISAAA Board Chair Dr. Paul S. Teng presented the report, including the global impact and future prospects of biotech crops. SEARCA Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr. said that the 2016 figures surpass previous records and attest to the effectiveness and benefits of biotechnology.

Meanwhile, Officer-in-Charge and Director of the Bureau of Plant Industry; and Director of the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Biotechnology Program of the Department of Agriculture, Dr. Vivencio R. Mamaril, reported on the biosafety regulatory developments in the country, particularly the harmonization of the Joint Department Circular by the five government departments, namely the Departments of Agriculture; Science and Technology; Environment and Natural Resources; Health; and the Interior and Local Government. The JDC is the latest biosafety regulatory guidelines for biotech crops in the Philippines, and is expected to regulate the testing and commercialization of other biotech crops in the pipeline, including Bt eggplant, PRSV-R papaya, Bt cotton, and Golden Rice.

Study analyzes 17 years of modern biotech news reporting in the Philippines

The Philippine media developed a matured editorial position over 17 years of modern biotechnology reporting, according to the new publication of ISAAA titled From Frankenfood to Light of Hope: 17 Years of Agri-biotech Reporting in the Philippines (2000-2016). The publication is based on a study conducted by ISAAA and SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center published in the April 2017 issue of Philippine Journal of Crop Science.

The initial 10-year study (2000-2009) authored by Dr. Mariechel Navarro and colleagues showed that majority of the reports from the top newspapers, Manila Bulletin, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Philippine Star were about the development and commercialization of biotech corn in the Philippines. The coverage was high in terms of the number of articles, but sensationalism and speculations were evident, since a biotech crop was just introduced and commercialized in the country. Negative metaphors such as “frankenfood” and “poison” were commonly used in the initial years of reporting. The follow up study (2010-2016) conducted by Kristine Grace Tome, Dr. Navarro, and colleagues showed that the use of fear metaphors declined, and an increasing effort to present science-based information became more evident in the succeeding years. More positive metaphors such as “new hope”, “answer to farmers’ dreams”, and “light of hope” were used in the articles depicting favorable potential or promise of the technology. Bt eggplant development and field trial case sparked the interest of journalists to write about biotechnology. Articles from Business Mirror were also included in the analysis of 2010-2016 articles due to its high coverage on biotechnology.

Media practitioners and scientists were encouraged to continue to collaborate to sustain media coverage of biotechnology in the Philippines. With the increasing use of social media, a new breed of information seekers and producers could help revolutionize discourses on biotechnology not just in the Philippines, but also in other countries.

Download the publication from the ISAAA website.

-Published in ISAAA’s Crop Biotech Update.  See original article link here.

ISAAA: Surplus, exports possible with Bt corn

The Philippines has the potential to become the top exporter of corn in Asean, especially if more Filipino farmers would plant Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn to expand their output, according to international experts.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri Biotech Applications (ISAAA) told the BusinessMirror that planting more Bt corn would allow the Philippines to have a corn surplus, which it could export to neighboring Asian countries.

“Many Asian countries are short of corn and the Philippines could supply their requirement,” Dr. Paul S. Teng, ISAAA board of trustees chairman, said on the sidelines of a news briefing on the global status of genetically modified (GM) crops in 2016, held recently in Alabang.

“Malaysia imports corn, Indonesia imports corn, so these countries would look for possible sources. Only the Philippines plants Bt corn in this region and it has a good history of growing corn, so I think it could become an exporter,” Teng added.

He also noted that the cost of shipping from the Philippines is much lower.

Based on the report of the ISAAA, titled “Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2016”, the total hectarage planted with Bt corn in the Philippines reached 812,000 hectares, making the country the 12th-biggest producer of GM crops in the world. The figure was 16 percent higher than the 702,000 hectares recorded in 2015.

“The increase is due to favorable weather conditions, and high local demand for livestock and feed stocks,” ISAAA said.

ISAAA also reported that the adoption rate of Bt corn by Filipino farmers increased to 65 percent in 2016, from 63 percent in 2014. This means that out of the total 1.248 million hectares planted with corn, 812,000 hectares were of Bt seed varieties.

Out of the planted hectarage, 679 hectares were planted with stack traits corn, while the remaining 133,000 hectares were planted with single trait corn.

“In 2003 the area for Bt corn did not even reach 50,000 hectares, and now we are talking about 800,000 hectares. We have yet to receive reports that Bt maize has done harm or caused ailment,” Bureau of Plant Industry OIC Director Dr. Vivencio R. Mamaril said.

“The mere fact that planting area grew to 800,000 hectares is proof that it is a successful crop and farmers believed in it,” Mamaril added.

The ISAAA report noted that Filipino farmers earned an estimated $642 million from planting GM corn in 2003 to 2015. In 2015 alone, farmers recorded earnings of $82 million.

The number of small resource-poor farmers, growing on average 2 hectares of biotech maize in the Philippines in 2016, was estimated at 406,000, up from 350,000 in 2015. Biotech maize is the only GM crop commercialized in the Philippines.

Since the approval of Bt maize in 2003, a total of 6.03 million hectares have been planted with the GM crop, according to the estimates of ISAAA.

The Philippines is currently in the process of developing other biotech crops, including the Bt eggplant, Bt cotton, and Golden Rice.

Written by Jasper Arcalas in BusinessMirror.  See original article link here.

Philippine Biotech Crop Area Rebounds in 2016

Philippine Biotech Crop Area Rebounds in 2016

PRESS RELEASE, 19 May 2017: Biotech/GM corn production in the Philippines rebounds in 2016 as the country remains to be the top grower of biotech or genetically modified (GM) crops in Southeast Asia, and ranks as the twelfth biggest producer of such crops in the world, according to the latest report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

searcabic_btcornharvestISAAA states that in 2016, 185.1 million hectares of biotech/GM crops were planted in 26 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North and Latin America. Of this area, 812,000 hectares of biotech/GM corn was planted in the Philippines in 2016, a remarkable 16% increase from the 702,000 hectares planted in 2015 which is equivalent to 110,000 hectares. The increase is due to favorable weather conditions, and high local demand for livestock and feed stocks. Biotech/GM corn, which was approved for commercial planting in 2002 is the only biotech crop planted in the country today.

Adoption rates of biotech/GM corn also increased from 63% in 2015 to 65% in 2016, when the number of small, resource-poor farmers, growing on average, 2 hectares of biotech/GM corn in the Philippines was estimated to be over 406,000. According to the report, the farm level economic benefit of planting biotech/GM corn in the country from 2003 to 2015 is estimated to have reached US$642 million, and for 2015 alone, the net national impact of biotech/GM crop on farm income was estimated at US$82 million.

ISAAA’s 2016 report which was launched on May 4, 2017 in Beijing, China also states that there are only 13 biotech/GM corn events approved for cultivation in the Philippines, with the last approval given in 2014. There have been 88 biotech crop event approvals for food, feed, and processing cultivation in the Philippines, including: alfalfa (2 events), rapeseed (2), cotton (8), corn (52), potato (8), rice (1), soybean (14), and sugar beet (1).

Current research and development efforts on biotech/GM crops in the Philippines include products from the public sector: fruit and shoot borer resistant Bt eggplant led by the Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (IPB-UPLB); biotech papaya with delayed ripening and papaya ring spot virus (PRSV) resistance, also being developed by IPB-UPLB; Bt cotton being developed by the Philippine Fiber Development Administration (PFIDA, formerly the Cotton Development Authority); and Golden Rice (GR), a biotech rice biofortified with provitamin A beta-carotene that is being developed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

The Philippines continues to be at the forefront of biotech research and commercialization in Southeast Asia, and the acceptance of biotech/GM crops in the country has been demonstrated by key stakeholders including the general public, such that a Joint Department Circular (JDC) was quickly put together in record time of three months in 2016 after the Supreme Court nullified and invalidated the Department of Agriculture Administrative Order 8 (DA AO8) which served as the government policy for biotech/GM crops for more than 20 years. Future commercialization of Bt eggplant, PRSV-R papaya, Bt cotton, and Golden Rice will be regulated under the new JDC.

Despite a temporary decline in biotech/GM corn area in 2015, the Philippines has quickly rebounded production in 2016, when adoption rates for the crop increased due to the enormous benefits enjoyed by Filipino consumers, farmers and their families.

biotechcornfarmerMore than 18 million small farmers and their families have benefited from biotech crops in the last 21 years. ISAAA reports that the adoption of biotech crops has reduced CO2 emissions equivalent to removing approximately 12 million cars from the road annually in recent years. Biotech crops have helped conserve biodiversity by saving 174 million hectares of land from being ploughed and cultivated, and decreased the environmental impact of agriculture by reducing herbicide and insecticide applications and environmental impact by 19% in 1996-2015, and 18.4% in 2015 alone. Additionally, in developing countries, planting biotech crops has helped alleviate hunger and poverty by increasing the incomes for 18 million small farmers and their families, bringing improved financial stability to more than 65 million people.

INFOGRAPHICS: Philippine biotech/GM crops adoption in 2016

INFOGRAPHICS: Philippine biotech/GM crops adoption in 2016

The Philippines was first country in Southeast Asia to plant biotech corn in 2003 after its approval for commercial planting in 2002.  An estimated of 6.03 million hectares of land in the country was planted with biotech corn since then.

This infographics describes the Philippine adoption of biotech/GM crops in 2016.  Despite a temporary decline in biotech/GM corn area in 2015, the Philippines has quickly rebounded production in 2016, when adoption rates for the crop increased due to the enormous benefits enjoyed by Filipino consumers, farmers and their families.

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Use of high-yielding GM varieties will allow farmers to export corn

The government should promote the use of higher-yielding genetically modified (GM) seed varieties to boost corn output and enable farmers to export, according to an executive of Monsanto Philippines Inc. (MPI).

MPI Country Commercial Lead Rachelle Lomibao said expanding the use of modern technology will help the government achieve its goal of exporting corn in the near future.

“If you just increase the yield average per hectare then you don’t have to increase the number of hectares to be planted with corn. You just increase productivity per hectare and that’s not impossible,” Lomibao told the BusinessMirror on the sidelines of the company’s media launch of a new hybrid corn seed variety on Monday.

However, the MPI executive said the use of hybrid-corn seed varieties alone is not enough to turn the Philippines’s dream of exporting the crop into a reality.

“It’s not just about the seeds; it has to be accompanied by a lot of factors: fertilization, right agronomic practices, right management of water and right management of diseases and pests,” Lomibao said.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) earlier said the Philippines will achieve a “historic feat” this year by exporting corn due to a surplus in output.

However, Lomibao said she doesn’t see this happening this year.

“We may not be able to export this year due to the gap between the supply and demand,” she said.

Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the country’s self-sufficiency ratio on corn declined to 91.35 percent in 2015, from 93.12 percent
recorded in 2014.

On Monday MPI rolled out Dekalb 6999S, a hybrid corn seed variety, which has a potential yield of 13.6 metric tons per hectare (MT/ha), more than triple than the country’s average yield of 4 MT/ha.

“Based on our trials it has a potential yield of as much as 13.6 MT/ha. This variety can be used both for wet and dry seasons,” MPI Marketing Lead Pam Valenzuela told reporters in a news briefing on Monday.

“This variety is what we need to reduce the gap between what is currently being produced and the demand,” Valenzuela added.

Dekalb 6999S contains Genuity, a Monsanto trait technology that makes the crop resistant to pests, such as corn borer, earworm and cutworm, according to MPI. MPI also said its latest product is protected against weeds due to its Round Up Ready component.

When asked if the MPI’s latest seed variety could withstand extreme weather condition such as drought, Lomibao said, “it will thrive.”

“Dekalb has been known to have a germplasm that is really resilient against drought. Our previous variety the Dekalb 6919 survived when planted during the last time we had El Niño,” she said.

“The germplasm, which is drought-tolerant used in 6919, is the same with that of Dekalb 6999S. We are confident that with Dekalb 6999s farmers can still be accorded with an optimum yield through our hybrid [seeds],” she added.

Lomibao also disclosed that there are several hybrid corn seed varieties currently in the pipeline.

-Written by Jasper Y. Aracalas in BusinessMirror.  See original article link here.

Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas is a graduate of the UST Journalism School (Batch 2016). He currently covers agribusiness for the BusinessMirror. He joined the news outfit in August 2016.

Radyo Teknolohiya: Interview with Charles Anthony Vega, DILG official (Philippines)

Radyo Teknolohiya: Interview with Charles Anthony Vega, DILG official (Philippines)

Listen to the interview of Radyo Teknolohiya with Mr. Charles Anthony Vega, Local Government Operations Officer III of the Bureau of Local Government Supervision-Department of Interior Local Government (DILG), Philippines as he talks about the local government initiatives and his views on the Joint Department Circular, a new biotech policy in the country that supersedes the Administrative Order No. 8.